Locating a litter of Florida panthers to complete a health assessment isn’t an easy task, but for the long-term sustainability of the native species, researchers diligently complete their work.
“It’s like finding a needle in a haystack,” said Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s panther veterinarian when asked about locating a den of panther kittens. “They camouflage so well, flattening themselves in the brush, staying silent until you’re right next to them, then they hiss.”
FWC’s panther team finished their second and final health assessment of FP262’s first litter of three kittens.
When panther kittens are 2-3 weeks old, biologists conduct their first assessment. The panther team waits until the collared mom leaves the den to hunt, then quickly locate the kittens to begin their workup.
Each kitten is sexed, weighed, dewormed, and microchipped for ID. Biologists also take a small skin biopsy for genetics and fit the kittens with an expandable VHF collar that will fall off before maturity.
During the final assessment at 5-6 weeks, biologists will check the kittens for weight gain/loss and ensure their collars are fitting properly. Kitten survival rate estimates are low (33%).
Data collected from radio-collared kittens can help improve these estimates and is vital for monitor for changes in survival rates, according to the FWC.
Biologists also take a small skin biopsy for genetics and fit the kittens with an expandable VHF collar that will fall off before maturity, according to the FWC.
Florida residents can support panther conservation efforts such as rescues, releases, and research by purchasing a “Protect the Panther” license plate. Fees from license plate sales are the primary funding source for the FWC’s research and management of Florida panthers. Click here to learn more.
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